The North Carolina baseball team’s 2014 season is in the books. With the subpar campaign, by lofty Carolina standards, the Tar Heels are already looking forward to wipe the sour taste out of their mouths in 2015.
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The Tar Heels appear to be locked and loaded for a run at an eleventh ACC crown and an eleventh trip to Omaha for the College World Series in 2015.
With only two key contributing seniors departing in Parks Jordan and Tom Zengel, Carolina would look to have a veteran team returning to Chapel Hill, capable of returning a dominant sense of normalcy to Boshamer Stadium.
But what about offensive catalyst Michael Russell? Russell has likely swung his final at-bat in Carolina uniform. But still, the junior hitter is probably the only junior who will leave for the MLB.
Some analysts say junior pitchers Benton Moss and Trevor Kelley could depart if drafted. But those are long shots.
The entire pitching staff, led by ace Trent Thornton, should return. And don’t forget, Chris McCue will be back in the saddle after missing almost the entire season due to injury. So the depth in the bullpen will be Omaha ready, but how about the bats?
That’s the big question mark. A .274 team batting average in 2014 left Carolina a run or two short in countless contests. Even a modest rise in firepower in 2015 could spell the difference between an early exit in the NCAA Tournament and a return to Omaha.
An offseason to sharpen their skills at the plate should aid young players like Adam Pate, Wood Myers and Tyler Ramirez. But more practice can’t always cure every deficiency at the plate.
Help is on the way. Head Coach Mike Fox’s incoming recruiting class features six players inside the Top 100 in the nation, including highly-touted Asheville native, Braxton Davidson.
Davidson, a first baseman and outfielder, ended his high school playing days with a whopping .450 batting average and a .585 on base percentage. That’s the kind of weaponry the Tar Heels can use.
Thankfully for Tar Heel fans everywhere, Carolina should have the personnel and motivation to again return to its usual spot amongst the college baseball elite in 2015.